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Non-Accidental Head Injury In A Child

If you have been accused by doctors and the authorities of causing your child a Non-Accidental Head Injury (sometimes referred to as Shaken Baby Syndrome, Abusive Head Trauma or Inflicted Head Injury) although it is probably little comfort, rest assured, you are not alone.

Non-Accidental Head Injury describes an injury to a child’s brain that is unexplained.  This is caused by the moving of the brain inside of the skull.  This can sometimes result in bleeding inside and around various parts of the brain, swelling, raised intra-cranial pressure, bruising etc.  Such injuries are known to occur in cases where a child has been involved in a car crash.  Sometimes these injures can be caused by a shaking like motion alone or with an impact trauma with a yielding or unyielding object.

There has been a lot of controversy around the cause of head injuries in children.  Whilst not shying away from the fact that some children are injured at the hands of abusive parents; many are not.  Over the years it has become wildly accepted that some children sustain bleeding to the brain at birth whereas this previously was not accepted, the same can be said for retinal haemorrhages.  It is possible that if a baby had sustained a bleed at birth that a re-bleed might happen with no or minimal force.  There are also situations in children whereby they have sustained a fall (from a short or high height), they have been dropped or due to reckless behaviour on the part of a parent they have sustained head injuries (for example throwing a baby in the air and not catching them.)  Not all head injuries to children are caused deliberately.  It is where the explanation of the injury does not fit the injuries sustained that parents find themselves wrongly accused of causing Non Accidental Head Injury.

Sometimes a triad of injuries, ribs fractures, retinal haemorrhages and bleeding to the brain, would lead professionals to consider whether or not a child has been shaken.  However, it is known that even if a child is shaken, whether this is deliberately or whether this is as a result of a momentary loss of control or sheer panic, not all children present with the triad.  Some may present with all the injuries listed, others may present with one or the other. What is known is that unless there is a medical reason, infants do not sustain injuries such as these as a result of normal handling unless the child has an underlying medical condition which may pre-dispose a child to injury.

The knowledge of Non-Accidental Head Injury is always expanding with greater knowledge from the medical profession.  Where considered necessary by the Courts, medical experts are asked to assist in Care Proceedings as to the cause of the injuries sustained by a child and whether or not explanations provided could explain the injuries.

Some Phrases That You May Hear When There Are Allegations On Non-Accidental Head Injury

Depending on the severity of the disruption to the brain during the injury, long term damage to the brain can occur. Some children recover entirely from bleeding to the brain others unfortunately do not and require long term monitoring and intervention.

Some medical conditions and infections may explain some head injuries.  For example, Glutaric Aciduria type 1 is a known condition in which children have been seen with bleeding in their brain and to their eyes which historically has been mistaken for abuse. There are many different medical conditions which have to be explored by the medical professionals, this is just one of them.

Some infections may contribute to bleeding to the brain and eyes and these again have to be considered by the medical professionals.

Also, rare, there are some conditions which may result in vascular abnormalities in the brain which may render a child more susceptible to easy bleeding or in some cases spontaneous bleeding.

There may be some structural abnormalities in the brain which may make a child more susceptible to easy or spontaneous bleeding.

All of things and more have to be considered when looking at a Non-Accidental Head Injury.

In some cases of Non-Accidental Head Injury there may be some injuries to the neck and spine.  Although, this is not always the case they sometimes present themselves.

These are just two kinds of bleeding that can be found within the brain itself.  Each injury to a child’s brain is unique, as is the prognosis.  Sometimes children may have bleeding to a specific single location on the brain others may be multiple locations.  They may of single density or mixed density.  They may be Chronic (Old) or Acute (New) or sometimes a combination of the two.  Sometimes the bleeds will resolve themselves other require medical intervention. It is known that children can sustain bleeding to the brain as part of the birth process.  Bleeding of the brain is always suspected as a Non-Accidental Injury when there is no obvious medical reason for it, or when the parent’s explanation of an actual trauma (intentional or accidental) does not get accepted by the medical staff as being the real cause.

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